What is Lightroom CC?
Lightroom is Adobe’s all-in-one photo organising and editing program for enthusiast, experts and professionals. You can use it to catalog your entire image library and organise and search your photos in any way that suits you.
It can also process and edit raw images without any intermediate conversion process, just as if they were JPEG, TIFF or Photoshop files, with both global and localised adjustments.
Until now, Lightroom has come in two versions. Lightroom CC has been the version included in Adobe’s subscription based Photography Plan, while Lightroom 6 has been a standalone version you pay for just once.
But two things have happened. First, new camera support and updates for Lightroom 6 will end at the end of 2017, so effectively, the subscription-free version of Lightroom is being withdrawn.
Second, there is a new version of Lightroom where your images are stored online on Adobe’s own servers so that all your photos will be available everywhere, on all your devices, and at their full resolution.
Confusingly, this new version of Lightroom will also be called Lightroom CC. The ‘old’ Lightroom CC will continue, but has been rebranded Lightroom Classic.
So photographers now have a choice between the new Lightroom CC’s ‘cloud first’ storage approach, and the traditional ‘desktop first’ approach of Lightroom Classic.
Lightroom has now split into two versions: the cloud-based Lightroom CC reviewed here (top) and Lightroom Classic (below).
Tools and features
Clearly, if you’re going to store your image library online, you’re going to need a lot more storage space. Adobe has increased the number of different Photography Plans to three (four if you count new mobile-only plan), and introduced 1TB online storage into the mix.
You can see a full breakdown of the new plans at the end of this review, but the bottom line is that this 1TB storage will cost in the region of £9.98/$9.99 per month extra, though your choice of plan can reduce this figure. If 1TB storage isn’t enough, Adobe says you can increase the amount, but at a cost of a further £9.98/$9.99 per 1TB per month.
The organising tools in Lightroom CC are now very much simpler. You can add images to Albums and store Albums in folders, and that’s it.
The new Lightroom CC looks very different. The core tools are similar to Lighroom Classic’s, but the interface has had a major overhaul. In Adobe’s words, it wanted to create an interface that was powerful but simple, with everything you need but nothing you don’t.
The new destkop app ditches the complicated Folders & Collections setup of Lightroom Classic in favour of a much simpler approach consisting simply of Albums, which can be organised in folders. There are no Smart Albums, but Adobe’s new Sensei intelligent search and tagging technology could make up for that.
Adobe’s cloud-based Sensei machine-learning search tools can find images based on the objects they contain, such as ‘tree’ or ‘flower’.
Sensei uses machine learning to identify objects and scenes in your images and tag them automatically. If you search for ‘tree’ or ‘boat’, for example, Sensei will find matching images with an impressive degree of accuracy.
It’s not so good on specific places or locations, but you can add location metadata manually if that’s important. Sensei does have one particular restriction – it’s a cloud-based search tool, so you need an Internet connection to use it.
Lightroom CC’s editing tools have gone through the same radical streamlining process and are now accessed by small icons in the right sidebar.
Lightroom CC doesn’t have the power of Photoshop, but it’s very good indeed at photo enhancements and effects, and its powerful local adjustment tools mean you can tone down brights skies, dodge and burn your black and white photos and create dramatic ‘re-lighting’ effects without needing another program.
Lightroom CC’s editing tools are now much cleaner and more streamlined, though some ‘Classic’ panels are not available here.
Compared to the dense clutter of the old Lightroom interface, still used in Lightroom Classic, the Lightroom CC interface is like a breath of fresh air. Both the interface redesign and the tools themselves are now less intimidating for new and casual users.